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Israel accuses EU of funding NGOs backing BDS

Jan. 27, 2019 3:24 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 30, 2019 10:18 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry accused the European Union of funding organizations that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to the tune of millions, urging Brussels to make any financial aid to NGOs contingent on an explicit commitment to opposing boycotts of Israel.

According to Hebrew-language news outlets, Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs published a 34-page new report, stating that certain non-governmental groups that support the Palestinian-led boycott movement against Israel receive EU funding.

The report entitled “The Money Trail: European Union Financing of Organizations Promoting Boycotts against the State of Israel,” read that the EU had given more than €5 million to at least 10 NGOs that promote boycotts against Israel.

The report also showed that two prominent pro-Palestinian NGOs, al-Haq and al-Mezan, were awarded a multiyear grant of €750,000 in 2018.

The report stated that funding for “seemingly legitimate causes enables BDS-promoting NGOs to channel other funds to advance the delegitimization and boycott of the State of Israel.”

The report argued that the fact that the EU funds groups that back up BDS, “even if the funds are designated for other purposes, gives those organizations ‘enhanced legitimacy,’ which helps them secure grants for anti-Israel activity.”

In the report, Israel also urged the EU to “immediately implement” certain recommendations, including stipulating that any future funding to NGOs be “contingent on a commitment not to promote” boycotts of Israel.

The report further quoted a December 2018 report by the European Court of Auditors (ECA), the EU’s financial-audit body, which urged the EU to be more transparent about its funding of NGOs, referring to how the funds were “distributed or spent.”

The EU responded by saying that it opposes BDS, however, will continue to defend freedom of speech, noting that it similarly rejects actions to “close the space” for civil society groups.

In addition, in response to the ministry’s accusations, a spokesperson for the EU’s delegation to Israel noted that the ECA’s report found the union’s selection of NGO-led projects “to be generally transparent” and in accordance with international transparency standards.

The spokesperson added that EU’s opposition to the BDS movement has not changed.

“While it (EU) upholds its policy of clearly distinguishing between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied by it since 1967, the EU rejects any attempts to isolate Israel and does not support calls for a boycott.”

The spokesperson stressed that the EU does not fund actions that are “related to boycott activities,” however, noting, “the EU stands firm in protecting freedom of expression and freedom of association in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.”

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